Learning to swim again

In June 2019, I stepped into my swimsuit and a pool for the first time since 2012. Before then, I hadn’t swam for about five years.

Where I live now is the beginning of the block, at the end of which is a pool exclusively for this neighborhood. It’s a long walk, which is honestly a pain for my ED recovery because, like, lots of truths about my body’s energy source are coming to surface and I have to accept them if I wish for my body to function — but the main pool is heated, so it’s like…worth it?

Especially since we live in a neighborhood with a pool! And live so close to the pool! Like, obviously I want to go swimming! And since I have no contacts, the countenances of those around me matter not because I’m completely oblivious to them!

There’s just…it seems I’ve forgotten to swim. The only other activity I’ve always forgotten is skating. Every time I went skating, even on the tiled kitchen floor or pavement at home, I’d have to learn all over again to skate. Visiting the skating rink was more of a special occasion for me, not a convenient privilege.

NASA Water Egress Procedures Practice
Water Egress Procedures Practice with Apollo 1 Prime Crew (source)

At a cousin’s birthday party, I realized I’d forgotten how to float. Whilst swimming with Solara the other day, I realized my loss of swimming skills posed a safety risk. As much as she loves swimming, and however much I was able to teach her (she just can’t hold herself up yet, but she learned a lot in two hours), I’m not well-prepared to help her if I can’t even do swimming strokes without almost drowning anymore.

Like, this disappoints me so much because, in sixth grade, I signed up for competitive swimming.

Before you congratulate me, I should fill you in on the first day. For anyone who has never approached a sport as a complete beginner for their age group, after you’re a peewee, this is how it goes.

On the first day, your coach, co-coach and any assistants assess the team at hand. Because you’re a kid and it’s a community sport, everyone is accepted into the program. The idea is that, even if you suck, you are acting as part of the community — and those who suck can only move towards un-sucking.

It’s a lovely idea, isn’t it? Giving everyone a chance. Especially for my sixth grade self.

The whole reason I wanted to swim competitively in the first place was because a) I loved swimming and what better way to spend time at the pool than by swimming? and b) it wasn’t soccer, and my step dad was determined to make his family a sports family. (Gross.)

Because this isn’t peewee sports, the coaches expect you to know your shit. So when they tell everyone in your age group to engage in freestyle strokes to the other side of the pool, they expect you to swim in strokes to the other side of pool — not stand in the pool and stare blankly as your peers swim to the other side.

I realized too late that competitive swimming was not akin to seeing who could hold their breath underwater the longest or finding items at the bottom of the pool.

One of the “swim mom” coaches approached me, thinking I didn’t hear her give the group instructions. Quite plainly, I confirmed that I heard her loud and clear. Autistics don’t always give details when not prompted. I, for one, have learned not to detail something without prior prompting.

She asked me if I knew how to swim, and I said I did, but not like that. She directed me to a lane that had entrance via ramp on each end and explained to me how to swim like a frog, realizing her mistake when I struggled to maintain position while holding my nose.

So she began to teach me how to swim without holding my nose. And then how to breathe underwater. And then she told me to tell my mom to arrive an hour early the next day, and I thought that meant I would learn everything there was to know about swimming so I could be a pro. Because competitive community swimming basically equated to “you will be an Olympic-level swimmer or you’ll quit”.

I arrived an hour early the next day to learn I’d been placed in the peewee swimming class.

I gave it three weeks before I quit, and they never made me signup for sports again.

Because I’d already been to a peewee swimming class when we lived in Seagoville.

Like, I’ve gone through the whole hold-your-nose-like-this, go-under-water-like-this, jump-off-the-beam-like-this, hold-the-side-of-the-pool-and-float-like-this bullshit and didn’t want to go through all that again — especially since I wasn’t swimming for fun. Or with my elementary BFF. (Or with anyone I knew.)

Swimming felt like homework.

And then I got too self-conscious.

I covered my body so I didn’t have to look at it.

I was paranoid of guys checking me out.

I hated being catcalled.

I couldn’t stand guys commenting my pics like I needed their validation.

And then I developed skin discoloring, random patches of fluffy hair (lanugo), lots of acne, my hair falling out…

So I just quit swimming.

So here’s to learning to swim again!

I have to take it slow right now because my body aches from doing too much the other day, but~ plenty of opportunity!

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Comments on this post

It must have been pretty daunting to have to learn to swim competitively in that kind of environment. If I were in the same situation, I would have reacted the same way!

Good luck with learning how to swim again! 🙂 It’s nice doing it in a completely new environment… and one that’s so close to your house too! <3

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